Tommy John’s name stays in the news
Because of the surgery to the arm he abused
In Little League and beyond
Many a pitcher down that path has gone
But how many ended their career with 288 wins
Yes he came back from surgery, but the story also begins
A little earlier when he had to come back
From a brutal mound-top attack
Not that he didn’t have a hand in bringing it on
But when it was over that season was gone

In the first inning leadoff hitter Dick McAuliffe singled, moved to second and scored
When Al Kaline put a number on the board
One wonders if something about McAuliffe’s hustle
Caused the man on the mound to bristle
Tommy John was the Sox pitcher just starting a promising career
He’d been an all-star that year, McAuliffe wouldn’t again appear
The Sox were heavy on pitching, the best batting average the year before
Was .260 by a guy they got in a trade, Ken Boyer
One could guess John was frustrated with lack of run support and how the game had begun
In an interview years later McAuliffe suggested manager Eddie Stankey was the one

So McAuliffe comes up in the third
And John fires a barbershop blur
In his Mel Ott stance it was right at his face, but he got out of the way
A pitch like that could end your days
Then things settled down until three and two
And John buzzed another one behind McAuliffe, who went to the ground, spun like a screw
Bad feelings ensued and they gave each other the stank eye
And on the way down to first, words began to fly
From the first base line, McAuliffe made a sharp left turn
The look on his face was a man determined

His teammates called him Muggsy and at that moment he was a mugger
He went after John like the original Louisville Slugger
Charging the mound he knocked John to the ground and somehow rammed his knee
Into John’s pitching shoulder (I thought later it was the cause of the famous surgery
but no, even though the paper said McAuliffe had torn ligaments in John’s throwing arm)
The pictures looked like there was the intent to do even more harm
I remember someone said McAuliffe tried to rip the arm off John’s body
The league apparently thought McAuliffe more than a little bit naughty
He got suspended for 5 days

In the middle of the pennant chase
John recovered and went on to pitch what seemed endlessly
McAuliffe, traded homeward to Boston, concluded his playing days
About the time John went under the knife
Which John followed with a whole second pitching life
Finishing a four-time all-star
McAuliffe went to three and once went yard
John twice finished second for the Cy Young, can you believe
McAuliffe was seventh in votes for the ’68 MVP
and rated twenty-second all time at second base
Looking back there was a sort of parity of almost-greatness

But at that moment in time McAuliffe was the established vet
John the young hotshot not quite there yet
In the dog days of August these two collided on the stairs of their careers
One on the way up, one already there
There’s not much more light to be shed on this fight
It was the era of Bob Gibson and pitching batters tight
John may have missed as many as four wins, but it didn’t keep him from 300
So in the end for them it didn’t mean too much, but both were perhaps a little humbled
I think as a young fan it had an effect more profound
I found I liked my heroes not so violent and with their feet on the ground